Monday, March 14, 2016

Makey Makey Workshop

When searching for tech program ideas for tweens and teens, I found Makey Makey to be one of the easiest and most rewarding.

What is Makey Makey, you ask? It basically an invention kit that allows user to take regular objects that they'd find at home and connect them to the computer. The kit looks like this:


You can buy a kit for around $50 on Amazon. We purchased 8 kits so that we could offer a workshop for up to 24 participants (having them work in groups of 2 or 3). I created a one-time, 1 hour workshop for grades 3 to 5 that you can alter for really any group ages 8 and up. Here's what I did:

1. Give a brief overview of electricity/circuits. Because using the Makey Makey is basically just making circuits and some kids might not have learned about them yet in school, I showed them a brief video from Bill Nye (or you can use his Electricity DVD which has the same short video)

2. Show some short videos of cool Makey Makey projects. First I showed them the introductory video from the Makey Makey website. Then I showed them some other cool projects from YouTube, such as the guy playing "O Say Can You See" by eating/drinking. I literally just Googled "cool Makey Makey projects" to find my examples.

3. Go over the parts of the Makey Makey. As I explained each part, I had the tweens follow along by connecting the various cables as well as the Makey Makey itself to the computer.

4. Give the tweens specific challenges to make sure they were all on the same page. I used the "How-To" page of the Makey Makey site for challenges:

  • Use the Makey Makey with the space bar key
  • Play the drum kit using the Makey Makey
You can give them more challenges before setting them loose if you want, but I found these to be the best two in order to get them comfortable using the kits. I briefly explained the more complicated connections on the back of the Makey Makey board in case they wanted to try its but told them that was completely optional.

5. Go over the various conductive materials available to use. We briefly talked about conductivity and the items I set out for the tweens to try out. These included:
  • bananas
  • celery/carrots
  • marshmallows
  • gummy bears
  • aluminum foil
  • quarters
  • pencils/paper
  • Play Doh

6. Let them tinker! I gave them free reign to try out the Makey Makey and came around to help with any questions/troubleshooting. The most popular items were the Play Doh, the marshmallows, the gummy candy, and the bananas. The pencil/paper drawing were hit and miss. The next time, I would practice using these materials beforehand. I also gave them some links to games that worked well with the Makey Makey controller:

Mario Bros. - 
Pac Man - 
Scratch Piano: 
Whack A Frog: 
Full Pac Man: 
Pong (uses mouse): 
Pong (2 player):

7. (Optional) Just before class ended, I had them create a circle holding hands and played the bongo game. This showed them that we could create a giant circuit using just ourselves!

That's it! I'm planning a workshop for teens where we get more involved with what the Makey Makey can do.

Have you ever done a Makey Makey program? What did you do?

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